Recognising Your Joy Bits

I have to start this with an apology. I have had a week and a half. Nothing exciting – only work etc. Usually, I sit down with what I want to say on the blog and think about it and craft it into the finished product. (this may come a surprise to you but it is true.) So, if you will forgive me, this is a bit different this week. Like I said, a busy if mundane week and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and then remembered the things I had written about gratitude. But gratitude is really difficult if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for and, I have to be honest, I’m not as good as I should be at summoning gratitude for the health of my nearest and dearest and the fact that I have a job and can eat etc. So I have looked at this average week and highlighted some of the bits of it that brought me joy, even though I may not have recognised it at the time.

In no particular order..

  • Saturday afternoon. One sprog camping overnight in Cornwall. One in town looking at shoes. Just me, the Women’s Wimbledon Final, and a Magnum I had hidden at the back of the freezer.

Friday. Head of House, me, bottle of red wine taken in the grounds of Hargreaves Towers in the early evening.

  • Friday afternoon around three pm. Realisation dawns that its nearly done for the week and a couple of days off is moving into view.

  • Saturday night. All week I have been telling myself to try that dress on because I haven’t worn it for ages and I don’t want to be on the last minute because I know we have to be at the ‘do’ at 8pm and I also know that I don’t have a Plan B as far as clothes for the evening go. But I never did try that dress on and now its 7:45, I am late as usual and I step into the dress in a state of dread and….it zips up perfectly!

A line of whites.

  • Sunday morning. The pastor says “and now the children and young people are going to leave us” and as I watch them file out, laughing, chatting and holding hands (mainly the girls that one), I am struck by two things. How glad I am that I am not a youth leader anymore and how brilliant it is to watch these amazing young people in here on a Sunday Morning.

  • Most nights of the week. Two adults. Two teens. Around the tea table. Laughing, sharing the day’s events and interesting if sometimes combative  (from Sprog One) conversation.

  • One beach. Two Jacks. Half a dead seagull. Let joy be unconfined!

Does it really get any better than the Charlie Brown clan dancing to Sly and the Family Stone?

And I find to my surprise that I could go on. Try it for yourself. (well you can if you want to) you don’t have to obviously. You may have had a better week than me!

The Comeback Kid

I have made it part of my mission this week to follow Head Gardener round on one of his tours of the grounds and impart my gardening wisdom and opinions, whether they are asked for or not. I have included this photo of one of our roses, not because it is the most beautiful, but because it is the most comforting. We only have three roses here at Hargreaves Towers. The other two are my Roy Castle Rose and a white one that was supposed to be a climber but has stubbornly remained at base camp despite verbal threats and Morecambe lifting his leg on a regular basis, which I would have thought would have encouraged it to grow upwards if only to get away from the smell. Anyway, the third one is the Comeback Kid. This is our Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. If you don’t know the story of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree you can look it up on YouTube or something. I also think that Friends shamelessly stole the story so you might be able to see it there. Anyway, the Head Gardener picked this up at some garden centre for 50p. (despite my best advice) It didn’t look very well at all. There was one tiny green bit on it and the rest looked like it was as dead as a dead thing in a half price dead sale. But this year – roses. Lots of them. Of course, I come from a religion, that thrives on comebacks and the longer I live, the more I see that makes me believe that anything can be recovered from. So I asked Head Gardener, who is pretty smug about his success to stop smirking and tell me what things he had put in place to ensure the Comeback Kid had the best chance of recovery.

  1. Put it in the right place. Try and keep it safe from pests including Morecambe (Lucy doesn’t wee-wee up things – it’s a genetic fact) In short, give it the best environment possible.
  2. Feed it well. This takes a bit of investment. (Rose feeder – Wilkinsons – £2.49 on offer – bargain!) but the time and the money is worth it.
  3. Keep things gentle for a while. Watch it in frosts or scorching sun. Don’t expect it to be able to take everything that is thrown at it straight away.
  4. Expect the first recovery roses to be a bit weedy but don’t lose heart. This rose probably wouldn’t win any awards but keep doing the right things and the next set will be stronger.
  5. In the end though, you put everything into place but it really is down to the rose. The right conditions are important but it has to actually do the recovery thing itself.

You are probably way ahead of me but these are good principles for anyone in recovery from any trauma – physical, mental or spiritual. Surround yourself with people you trust and know care for you and if you don’t know enough people to actually be surrounded by then ask your closest friends to do their best for a while. Watch what you are feeding yourself with. You know as a Christian, I know no better source than the Bible but as well as that, keep away from the stuff you know drags you down. Be gentle on yourself. If at first you don’t succeed and everything.. If the first signs of recovery are disappointing – it doesn’t matter. Keep going. But in the end it is up to you. People can support. God intervenes. But it will take your commitment and effort to get back into the sunshine.

On a less edifying note. Head Gardener has an anti social habit of getting rid of snails by picking them up and throwing them over the wall. This is anti – social both for the snail and any poor person walking past. Anyway, all his chickens came home to roost this week when one of his snail projectiles just missed a neighbour. He thought of trying to get out of it by playing innocent and pretending the snail had either jumped or been dropped by a passing seagull. In the end grovelling just about got him out of it. He’s too old for all this delinquent behaviour.

Challenging website of the week. This lady does the cleaning in 15 minutes a day. I do cleaning but could never get it done in that time. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t factor in stopping for a slice of lemon drizzle like normal people. Thats probably it.

On a personal note. My niece is now a bona fide holder of a degree. Congratulations Jessica.

Blah Days

When my brother was little he would get really, really excited about the coming of a big event, such as Christmas or his birthday. He would struggle to sleep for a few nights and on the day itself, he would be bouncing round like a demented Tigger. Then for a few days afterwards there would be no coping with him. He would be moody, sulky and generally depressed. My Mum would describe this and would say
“He’s having an anticlimax he is.” Although we were never sure if that was quite the right word, everyone got what she meant and the phrase has now passed into Hargreaves Towers’ vocab.
I think we are all having an anticlimax here at the moment. Birthdays done for a while, exams mostly over, back from lovely break, financial detox (caused by lovely break) in place. Just basically having to knuckle down to work and everyday life.
Facebook doesn’t help here of course. Every time you go on you are greeted by fifty people shouting “Had FABULOUS day at spa/Glastonbury/with 50 of my closest friends/at Take That concert etc. which can make a coffee at lunch with a chum seem a bit inadequate. (I think I may be the only woman in the country who is over 21 and didn’t want to see Take That. I don’t dislike them or anything, just don’t er, care. Does that make me a bad person?) Apparently, this is a recognised phenomenon. Because so many people only post on Facebook when they are doing something interesting and, for obvious reasons, don’t tend to put much on there about clipping their toenails or arguing with the dog, it can give the impression that everyone else but you is living the life of a modern day Marie Antoinette (Before all the guillotine type nastiness obviously.) This has led to depressions and all that sort of stuff  because you think that all the good stuff seems to be happening just round the corner and you never seem to experience it. (I found Paris a bit like that.) Can’t say it has had that effect on me particularly because well, it’s only Facebook. I love it but its not real life.
Anyway blah days. Love them or loathe them, we all have to knuckle down sometimes and get on with it. There are compensations to blah days. It is quite nice to have the ironing up to date (well at least to the point where I can put the lid on the ironing box) and getting to the bottom of your in-tray can sometimes mean that you find the file with the urgent stuff that you lost a month ago. (I’m not talking about me there or anything) And loads of spare time can mean more time for the 30 Rock box set.

Read a bit of Spurgeon this week (as you do) really good stuff on the effectiveness of a two word prayer. “Help Lord”. I am sometimes a bit hesitant about petitionary prayer – treating God as my personal slot machine but Spurgeon pointed out that asking God for stuff is a form of worship. It acknowledges his position as God. Which is brilliantly simple when you think about it which is probably what Spurgeon did. That is probably why he was a great theologian and I am not.

Wish I could say I was above all this but cannot wait. Fruit of Womb 2 slums it and always sees this with me on our own first so we can dissect and discuss. We are seriously considering going for late night first showing with all the strange people who dress as goblins. Well, it is the last one…

What I did on my holidays

And she’s back in the room. With one bound I have returneth from the wild country known as Cornwall, where all the rumours of men running round with burning barrels on their backs – just for kicks – appear to be true. Anyway, please notice above the photo is the view from our hotel room balcony no less. Vair, vair lovely as the young people say.

We have mooched for England. A wander here, a nosey there, a stuffing your face with fish suppers everywhere. And we hoovered up culture like a culture hoovering-up thing. The Tate. The Hepworth. Now I love my kids as you know but the oh the joy of wandering through these places without stage whispers behind me of  “Is this the last room or what?” or ” Did you notice if there was a cafe?”. Twas lovely.

Now, me and Modern Art. I have absolutely no idea what is going on. I find a lot of it very puzzling indeed and, to be totally honest, I do sometimes suspect that a lot of it is gold plated do-dahs. However, it is true that if I take my time and have a think about what I am seeing, I feel that I do learn things sometimes. I have even had quite emotional reactions to paintings such as a Rothiko and a Matisse. No idea why. Sometimes I just like the colours.

So to the Tate Modern in St Ives. Much as I love it, I do want to put in a slight complaint. Every time I have been, the people on the till who are there to sell you your entrance ticket seem totally baffled by the fact that people want to come up to them and purchase a ticket to see the pretty pictures. They are completely overwhelmed by a queue of two. Initially, this was quite charming but its wearing a bit thin now. 

Hargreaves.. Two combined tickets – Adults please

Tatey Chap..Er. Two?

Hargreaves..Yes Adults, please.

Tatey Chap.. Two adults? Er together?

Hargreaves..Yep. Two adults. Combined tickets please.

Tatey Chap..So that’s two adults, combined tickets?

Hargreaves..Er yes (still)

You’re lucky we’re not still standing there. Anyway one of the best rooms was the entry area which was filled with balloons. Like this.

This  was good  on its own but, even better, you could go into to the room! You had to read some health and safety stuff before you went in. (A few dipped out at this point. especially the Americans who seemed to actually believe English Health and Safety warnings) But it was genuinely unsettling. When you moved right in and couldn’t see the floor or the sky you kind of panicked a bit. No, it wasn’t just me and I didn’t cry or anything. Head of House took some photos of me but the balloons made my hair stand on end  and to be quite frank I spend enough time humiliating myself for your entertainment so they won’t be posted here.

So we had a great time all in all, thanks for asking. There have been some rumblings at Hargreaves Towers as we announced when we got home, that we had overspent and whole family was now to be subject to an economy drive ’till pay day. It’s not just about you sprogs you know.

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” Mark 6:30

Just struck by how lovely this is. There’s so much to do and I can feel guilty if I ever stop. This seems so simple and non pressured. Just stopping for a while. Everything will still be there when you come back. My theory, for what its worth, is that if Jesus said something, then there is a strong truth in it. Is it blasphemy to say that this is such a good example of the gentle wisdom of Jesus? (When I say gentle, I don’t mean soppy or anything – don’t send the Christian Police round) It’s just that not every profound truth is accompanied by a flaming sword and an accompaniment of apocalyptic horses – doesn’t make it any less important.

Rest and Play

Another Bank Holiday. Head of House was working and everyone else – friends and offspring alike either revising for, sitting or recovering from exams so no one was playing out. So I retired to the kitchen for the afternoon to make meatballs for tea and experiment with new recipe for strawberry cake. (Very nice, thanks for asking. The fruit made it a bit moist for my personal taste but, like most things in life, it was much improved by the addition of good ice cream)
I usually listen to 5 Live when I am in the kitchen but as all the news is about Cheryl Cole and I am a bit off football after all the shenanigans with Percy Pigs (I’m still not sure what the policy is on naming him in print – can’t be too careful I suppose) I turned to Radio 2. Where-Oh Joy it was the French and Saunders Radio Show. There then followed a lovely two hours full of gentle humour and silliness. I especially loved the riff about what happens when you get into a bath that’s too hot but you put up with it because you think it will cool down in a minute and then you notice that your legs are bright red and that your pulse is racing and you feel a bit faint. Why do we do that? Anyway, I spent a lovely productive afternoon and didn’t miss 5 Live at all. Maybe Bryan Goggs (again, careful not to use the real name) should play away more often. Not that I approve or anything.
We have started to book tickets for summer holiday in London. If everything takes as long as deciding what theatre to see, we will proabably miss the whole thing. Watch and wonder as our suggestions are dismissed by the offspring – without any alternative suggestions.
Parents. What about Les Miserables?
Sprogs. It’s like an opera isn’t it? Can’t cope with two hours of watching “the poor” squawking and moaning.
Parents. The Betrayal – Harold Pinter?
Sprogs. Too depressing. People trying to slit their wrists with the ice cream spoons at half time.
Parents. Legally Blond?
Sprogs. Musical theatre is just weird. People talking then bursting into song for no reason.
And so it went on… until
Parents. Warhorse?
Sprogs. Any singing?
Parents. Don’t think so.
Sprogs. Any scenes that will make us squirm because we are sat with our parents.
Parents. Probably not – it’s taken from a children’s book.
Sprogs. Doesn’t look like a lot of laughs but It’s about the best I suppose.

You’re welcome I’m sure. We also booked tickets for tour of Houses of Parliament. Fortunately, this is during the summer recess which has reduced the chances of Eldest Fruit of Womb doorstepping Nick Clegg and asking him how he sleeps at night.
It’s all very hard work arranging some time to rest. Especially when teenagers are involved. Listen. I’m sloping off now. I have a couple of days in St Ives with Head of House to celebrate staggering to 50. Just a couple of thoughts. Thanks so much for all the comments on Facebook etc. Good to know you like the stuff. Comments should be working on blog now as well.
Also. I have to tell you that sometimes, I really struggle with this Devon accent. This morning I was certain that someone announced from the front of church that Jesus Christ was sent as an Italian sacrifice for all. That can’t be right can it?
Lastly, a famous video clip just to remind you that however you feel you have things organised and under control – your lovely offspring are always capable of frightening the living daylights out of you.